Vanilla Crème Brûlée Tart

Pies and Tarts

Yield: one 9-inch tart
Recipe: 111/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 109



    The other day I had a lot of cream in my fridge and was looking for a recipe that would allow me to use it up. I found this recipe and thought that it sounded delicious – crème brûlée in the form of a tart, so more portions?! I’m in! I was not disappointed with this recipe. The vanilla flavour is very present but does not overwhelm the caramel crème brûlée flavour, rather, they are in perfect harmony. The texture of the tart itself is very pleasant and soft, and with the added crunch of the crème brûlée it is very pleasant. We found that this tart makes for a perfect late night snack! Definitely recommend.


  • 1 recipe Sable Tart Shell, baked and cooled
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup + ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whipping cream


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Place the tray containing the baked and cooled tart shell on  a baking tray lined with parchment or foil.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks, whole egg and ⅓ cup sugar together.
  3. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the egg mixture and whisk them in. If using vanilla extract, whisk it in the egg mixture.
  4. Pour in the whipping cream while whisking the eggs. Pour this carefully into the pastry shell and use a paper towel to dab away any air bubbles that are on the surface of the custard.
  5. Carefully carry the baking tray to the oven and place it on the centre shelf. Place a dish filled with 1 ½ cups of boiling water near the tart pan. It can be placed below, above or besides the tart pan.
  6. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, until the tart is set but about 3 inches in the centre still have a little jiggle. Cool the tart to room temperature before chilling it in the pan for at least 2 hours.
  7. When you are ready to serve that tart, sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of sugar evenly over the top of the tart. Use a butane kitchen torch to carefully melt and then caramelize this sugar. Once it cools for 1 minute, it will be crunchy.



Vanilla Cornmeal Wedges

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: 32 cookies
Recipe: 99/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 26


     Two weeks ago I realized that I had no dessert or snacks at home, so I decided to make these vanilla cornmeal wedges to have something to munch on. The result was a funny but sad turnout. As I went to take out the pan 20 minutes after putting it in the oven, I touched it and thought that it would benefit from several extra minutes of baking. I repeated this two times. Turns out that my oven died on me that very day! So the dessert that I had so lovingly prepared was just sitting in a broken oven that wouldn’t turn on. Quite sad indeed. It wasn’t fixed for another week, so last weekend I repeated the recipe to, finally, have a snack on hand. This recipe was easy to do (both times) and although simple these wedges taste very good. I used 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract as well as all the seeds from a vanilla bean, so not only were the wedges sprinkled with delicious black vanilla seeds everywhere, but the vanilla flavour was enhanced and very fitting with the shortbread. At first bite I was surprised by the crunch of the cornmeal, as I had never baked with cornmeal and didn’t know what to expect. However, after eating many of these wedges I came to appreciated this little surprise crunch in every bite. This is a simple, fast yet satisfying recipe!


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract *
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1  2/3  cups all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pans and set the pans in a baking tray.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the vanilla (either paste, extract and/or beans).
  5. Stir in the cornmeal, cornstarch and salt. Mix until well blended.
  6. Add the flour in two additions, blending well between each.
  7. Divide the dough between the two pans, then press the dough using floured fingers so that it covers the bottom of the pans. Cut each pan of dough into 16 wedges.     Note: the dough will be soft.
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, until just the edges of the shortbread begin to brown. Remove the pans from the oven and while still warm, cut each pan of shortbread into 16 wedges again. Cool completely in the pan before serving or storing.

* I supplemented 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with the seeds of a vanilla bean. Simply scrape them in the batter prior to baking.


Frosted Vanilla Cupcakes

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes
Recipe: 90/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 280


     It has been 9 months that I have not posted on my blog! Scandalous! I guess time just flew past me without me noticing. I have been so busy with my work and with one particular lovely and long-lasting blissful event that I forgot to take time to myself to bake. Well I never stopped baking per se and of course never forgot about this blog, but I have been baking a lot less than usual in these past months and not often from the cookbook when I was. I plan on stopping this 9-month hiatus immediately and getting back to it. Only 112 recipes to go!

    I volunteered to make baked good for a bake sale at work to support the Terry Fox Foundation and came upon this recipe in my never-forgotten book. I always hesitated to do this recipe because 1) it requires almond or soy milk, which I never have, but most importantly, margarine is used in the frosting and I never trusted that. However, for once I actually had almond milk in my fridge so I thought that it was time to let go of my doubts and give this recipe a try. The cupcakes came out much better than I thought. They were not hard to make and baked very well. I only realized when I was done mixing the batter that I hadn’t used any eggs at all! It was such a strange feeling to me since I don’t think I ever made egg-free cupcakes. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my oven to find golden tops that had risen. The frosting, in contrast, was quite a different story. I followed the recipe exactly, but it turned into a big mess. I had a gut feeling that 1/2 cup of milk was way to much for the amount of icing sugar required since normally only 3-4 tablespoons are used, but I went along with it and regretted it instantly. The frosting was very liquid, so much so that I wouldn’t even have been able to spread it (I tried). I ended up having to add a ton of icing sugar, hard to say since I was doing it by feel but anywhere from 3-4 additional cups, to make the frosting the right consistency to be able to pipe nicely. Since I added so much, it was very sweet, but still edible. In hindsight, I should have listened to my gut feeling and added the milk little by little, starting with 3-4 tablespoons. It is better to add milk than to have to add that much more icing sugar. The only reason that I can think of that could have altered the consistency of the frosting is that I had left the margarine out on the counter for maybe 30 minutes, but it had not softened that much. I don’t expect that it would have had that much of an impact. Nonetheless, the cupcakes tasted fine but I did not find that they had a lot of flavor to them, even with all the sugar. Another point to note is that because these cupcakes are egg-free and dairy-free, the texture was very different from your traditional cupcake recipe and the cupcake was all stuck in the muffin liner and was very difficult to remove. I would suggest baking these in silicone muffin liners if you have them to facilitate their removal, after which you can place the cupcakes in cute paper muffin liners if you wish.

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups almond or soy milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1 cup dairy-free margarine
  • 7 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup almond or soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two muffin trays with medium paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the almond or soy milk with the oil, lemon juice and vanilla extract.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the liquids. Whisk vigorously until well blended. Note: The batter will not be very thick.
  5. Pour the batter into the paper-lined muffin tins, filling the cups two-thirds of the way full. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the muffin tin, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely before frosting.
  6. To prepare the frosting, beat together with a hand or stand mixer the margarine with half of the icing sugar. Mix until blended, then beat in the almond or soy milk and the vanilla extract. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until the frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Pipe or spread the frosting onto the cupcakes and store at room temperature.

Notes from Anna:

  • This recipe requires more sugar than your normal cupcake or cake recipe. This is because apart from adding sweetness, the sugar is essential to provide moistness since this recipe is  egg-free. With less sugar, the cupcakes would be dry and crumbly.

Suggestions to improve recipe:

  • Use silicone muffin liners when baking these egg-free and dairy-free cupcakes.
  • When making the frosting, do not add the whole 1/2 cup of milk at once. Start little by little, 3-4 tablespoons at a time, until you reach the desired consistency suitable for piping or spreading.



Tres Leches Cake

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 9 x 13-inch cake (about 16-18 servings)
Recipe: 77/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 176


       After last week’s marble pound cake, I wanted to make another well-known yet simple cake that I had never tried – to eat or to make! This tres leches cake is a name that I often heard but never realized its meaning until I saw a recipe for it in this bible of a cookbook that I cherish so much. This latin american cake is meant to be a moist and simple cake. Tres leches means “three milks”, referring to the three types of milks traditionally used in such recipes: condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy (i.e. whipping) cream.

     This cake turned out exactly as the recipe describes: moist and succulent! I realized as I was cutting into the cake to serve it that I had most likely slightly undercooked it. It did not stand up by itself completely and wasn’t as firm as I was expecting. This was probably made a bit worse by the milk mixture, which made the whole cake a bit more delicate and spongy. Fortunately, the taste was all there nonetheless! Hence, make sure that you bake the cake enough and that it is completely chilled before you slice into it.

Ingredients for cake:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Ingredients for milk mixture:

  • 1 tin (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tin (370 mL) evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant skim milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut, lightly toasted (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9- x 13-inch baking pan, and dust the bottom and sides with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In a small saucepot, heat the butter and milk over low heat until the butter has melted. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly.
  3. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until the eggs are doubled in volume, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  5. Fold half of the flour mixture into the whipped eggs, then add all of the butter mixture and finally fold in the remaining flour mixture.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. After the cake has come out of the oven, let it cool at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Prepare the milk mixture in the meantime.
  7. For the milk mixture, stir the condensed milk, evaporated milk, whipping cream and vanilla extract together. Poke holes in the cake using a bamboo skewer or a toothpick and slowly pour the milk mixture over the entire surface of the cake. The cake will absorb all of the moisture and swell up. Cool the cake to room temperature, then chill for at least 3 hours.
  8. For the topping, whip the cream until it holds a soft peak. Stir in the icing sugar, skim milk powder and vanilla extract, then spread the cream over the surface of the cake.
  9. If desired, garnish the top of the cake with toasted coconut. Keep the cake chilled until ready to serve.

Notes from Anna:

  • A simple way to fold delicate ingredients together is to use a whisk, which will diminish the air introduced in the batter compared to, for instance, using a spatula.



Marble Pound Cake

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 9 x 5 -inch loaf (about 12 slices)
Recipe: 76/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 156


     Happy new year everyone! I realized recently that although I had managed to post at least one recipe every month for the past 2 years, I have not published anything for November and December 2014, which is quite disheartening. They were crazy months! I truly have no idea how I thought I would be able to finish the 200 recipes by October of last year (2014) while simultaneously doing a Ph.D in biochemistry. That is totally unreasonable and so that is the main reason that less and less recipes appear on my blog as the end of the year approaches. However, I always enjoy baking and if I am not doing it I am eating desert or thinking about it, so I am not giving up! 

      For my first recipe of 2015, I decided to make this simple yet enticing marble pound cake. Certainly, I have to practice the art of “marbling” different batters, in this case chocolate and vanilla,  but I think that for a first it came out pretty good. Truth be told, I was a bit worried as I was putting the batter in the loaf pan as it was very thick. Much thicker than what I am used to when I am making a banana bread, for instance. However, as usual I trusted Anna’s recipe and went with it, and it came out perfectly! Hence, do not worry when you are preparing the batter, it will seem thicker. Just make sure that you do not overbeat when you have added the flour. The cake is moist, not too sweet and has the distinct flavors of chocolate and vanilla. It is delicious and must be tried.


  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup sour cream
  • 4 oz (120 g) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and dust it with flour, removing any excess by tapping.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, making sure to beat well after each egg.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Add the flour to the butter mixture, alternating with the sour cream, until the mixture is homogenous. Scrape half of this batter in a separate bowl.
  6. Melt the chocolate in a metal or glass bowl placed over a pot of simmering water. Alternatively, you can melt it in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring every time.
  7. Add the warm chocolate to one of the bowls of batter and stir until well blended.
  8. Put a big spoonful of vanilla and chocolate batter in the pan, alternating between each. Use a paring knife to swirl the batter.
  9. Bake the cake for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the pan, then turn it out to cool completely.